Gardening is a kind of war. A gardener’s ambition determines what dies and what survives as s/he deploys their arsenal of tools and toxins to keep winning a perpetual battle with nature. Weeds and wildflowers are poisoned, hacked and uprooted while grass and cultivated plants are protected and nurtured. It’s an arbitrary division of luck. Look a daisy in the eye before slicing its head off with the mower – sure, it’s cute, even beautiful but it has to go because it does not fit the new order. Compassion is weakness. And the war never ends. Every month of every season demands application to tame the green stuff, to achieve nothing less than submission.
This is the nearest in life I get to feeling powerful. I divide and defeat my chosen enemies before engineering new growth according to my personal conceits. Yet even pruning a bush for its own good hacks at my conscience. All those fresh leaves and branches lopped off in the prime of life, crushed down into the recycling bin – they never hurt anyone! What makes them the bad guys? That’s apart from the guilt I eat for breakfast whenever I trap the ants along their busy arterial roads. Or when I asphyxiate the aphids. Or decimate the homes of the spiders who persistently, patiently rebuild their infrastructures across the deckchairs after I have deliberately torn them down.
I can do this because I am bigger, stronger and more motivated to create change than everything and everyone else in the garden. Despite these dominating tendencies, I still consider myself to be a reasonable human. But then so does Vladimir Putin. I imagine he goes to bed with a clear conscience, whatever the atrocities committed that day in his struggle to reconfigure the world. Those ‘Cruel To Be Kind’ KGB training lectures must have really stuck. A man who forces an entire country to comply for their own good with his vision is a man with inimitable self-belief and one who sleeps well. Me, I’m still having nightmares about the frog that got caught in the strimmer.